Wednesday, January 07, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Hwy. 67/167 needs funding

Hwy. 67/167 in Jacksonville could see more major improvements that would ease traffic congestion, especially at North First Street and Vandenberg Boulevard near Little Rock Air Force Base.

Plans call for an underpass or overpass near Vandenberg and overpasses at Gregory Street and Madden Road, along with one-way access roads. This would be in addition to the widening to six lanes that is already underway at a cost of nearly $200 million, including resurfacing between Jacksonville and Cabot.

The latest plan would benefit Little Rock Air Force Base, where congestion at rush hour is among the worst in the state. Jacksonville would attract new businesses that came after similar work was completed along the highway in Sherwood and North Little Rock. A fly-under in Sherwood was added, and the access roads were made one way to remove dangerous yields. That area has seen many new businesses ever since, bringing in hundreds of jobs and millions in tax revenue for those cities and the state.

Jacksonville and Cabot will also benefit if area legislators and incoming Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a Republican-controlled legislature find a way for the Highway Department to pay for these road improvements.

That’s a big question mark right now, but economic development and road safety cannot wait. Call your senators and representatives  when  the legislature is in session next week.

EDITORIAL >> If Huck runs for president

(From a column by Garrick Feldman in The Leader on Nov. 15, 2014, comparing Gov. Mike Beebe’s pardons of his pot smoking son and a sex offender with former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s pardons of violent criminals. Huckabee has given up his talk show on Fox News as he explores a possible run for the presidency.)

Neither pardon is as bad as Huckabee paroling rapist Wayne DuMond and granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who, between them, killed six people after Huckabee turned them loose.

Unlike Huckabee, Beebe didn’t pardon violent criminals. Huckabee pardoned killers, rapists, armed robbers and other thugs just about every year he was in office.

He set a record over 12 years: More than 1,100 pardons and clemencies — more than all of Huck’s predecessors combined, going back to the Faubus years.

A mostly friendly media in Little Rock ignored Huckabee’s pardons and clemencies. Huckabee’s much-criticized record on pardons could affect his decision on whether he runs for president in 2016, although he hasn’t always shied away from running before.

Let’s recap: Dumond was released from prison in 1999 at Huckabee’s urging. Dumond, who moved to Missouri a few weeks later, raped and killed two women. He died in a Missouri prison in 2005.

Clemmons received lengthy sentences for a series of holdups and thefts in the 1990s. His sentence was commuted in May 2000, and he was released three months later.

In March 2001, Clemmons committed two armed robberies and other crimes and was sentenced to 10 years. He was paroled in March 2003 but was soon wanted for aggravated robbery.

In 2008, Clemmons killed four law-enforcement officers near Tacoma, Wash., and then shot himself before police could arrest him.

In 2004, we reported that Huckabee planned to pardon a murderer named Glen Martin Green, who had beaten a teenager to death 20 years before.

Green, an Air Force sergeant, had kidnapped Helen Lynette Spencer, 18, of Gravel Ridge while she was visiting a friend at Little Rock Air Force Base. Green beat her to death with martial-arts sticks, ran over her body and dumped her into Twin Prairie Bayou in Lonoke County.

Huckabee usually ignored us when we advised him not to free murderers and rapists, such as Clemmons and Dumond. But Huckabee withdrew his pardon for Green after the outcry that followed our revelations.

Green was in the news again in September, when we reported that he was installing gym equipment at Cabot Junior High North as part of a prison work-release program.

Soon after our report, the Department of Correction announced it would no longer send convicted killers to schools. The Cabot School District has stopped buying equipment from Arkansas Correctional Industries.

TOP STORY >> Minimum wage rising

Leader staff writer

Almost 170,000 Arkansans received a 25-cent bump in their hourly pay last Thursday, thanks to voters in November who passed an initiative raising the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour by 2017.

The first hike, effective Jan. 1, was to $7.50. That rate now supersedes the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Media and supporters touted bipartisan support for the initiative.

Stephen Copley of Little Rock, who spearheaded the effort to get the measure on the ballot, said, “For me, it’s exciting because now folks that are working hard every day will see more money coming on their check, more money to make ends meet…In some way, this makes their life a little bit easier.”

Then he directed The Leader to Eleanor Wheeler, a senior policy analyst with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Wheeler composed a report on the impact of a minimum wage increase. It was released in January 2014, ahead of the November vote.

According to the report, the almost 170,000 employees who will be affected directly or indirectly by the pay increase make up about 15 percent of the state’s workforce.

The report also concludes that 20 percent of single parents in Arkansas and 87,696 — one in 10 children — have at least one parent who will be paid more because of the minimum wage hike.

Also, 85 percent of the workers affected are over 20 years old and many are at least 30. Wheeler’s report states this after explaining that teenagers working part time to earn spending money do not make up the majority of those affected. Some opponents have suggested as much.

Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Institute for Economic Advancement, said the recent 25-cent bump wouldn’t have “significant consequences, either positive or negative.”

But, he argued, it will have a larger impact over the next two years in its climb to the $8.50 rate.

Pakko said the increase would eventually result in “reduced availability of jobs.”

He told The Leader that a 2009 study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research draws that conclusion.

Wheeler’s report disputes that, stating, “There is a strong consensus, particularly among the most rigorous of these studies (used to compose her paper), that a minimum wage increase will not lead to significant job loss.”

It also claims research shows a wage increase will in-crease “profit-pumping essentials like work performance, employee morale and customer service.”

Wheeler uses the retailer Costco in her report as an example of a company that benefits from paying a “living wage.” Its workers make an average wage of $20.89 an hour.

Costco President and CEO Craig Jelinek supports raising the federal minimum wage, Wheeler writes. The report states that he told Congress, “We know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty.”

The report also notes that Costco is doing well, with its stock price from January 2009 to January 2014 having gone up 135 percent.

About passage of the minimum wage increase, Wheeler said this week, “We were all really thrilled. This is a great step forward for Arkansas.”

Her report begins by stating that, although there have been periodic increases to the federal minimum wage since the 1960s, inflation has caused the purchasing power of those dollars to drop, with the real value of the minimum wage being $3 less than it was four decades ago.

The report states that, if minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be more than $10 an hour instead of the $7.25 it is today. And Arkansas was one of only nine states that didn’t at least match the federal rate of $7.25.

Wheeler notes in her paper that no minimum wage worker putting in 40 hours a week could afford a two-bedroom apartment that averages a rent of $663 a month in Arkansas.

Minimum-wage employees would instead have to work 63 hours a week to afford that rent, the report claims.

TOP STORY >> Positive stories of 2014

Leader staff writer

From a dad giving his life to save his family, a bus driver honored for her actions during a kidnapping and teens volunteering – good news abounds.

Bad news always seems to find its way to the media without any effort, but good news, of which there is much more, doesn’t get told or reported to newspapers as much as it should. But The Leader in 2014 still had article after article of good news, inspiring stories and happy endings.

These are just some that appeared in last year’s pages.

• A ceremony in early December at Little Rock Air Force Base commemorated the life and heroism of Arkansas Guardsman Master Sgt. Daniel Wassom, who gave his life so his wife and daughters would live after a tornado hit their Vilonia home in April. 

Wassom, 31, shielded his 5-year-old daughter, Lorelai, his wife, Suzanne, and their 7-year-old daughter, Sydney, in the hallway of their home when an EF4 tornado — with winds of at least 180 mph — traveled 41 miles on a path that included Mayflower, Vilonia, El Paso and a piece of Pulaski County. Wassom was one of 15 people killed by the tornado.

Wassom’s wife and parents, Pam and Dan Wassom Sr., accepted the Airman’s Medal and participated in the dedication of a street in Dan’s name on the base. The Airman’s Medal is awarded to Air Force members who risk their lives but not in combat.

Col. Robert Ator II, 189th Airlift Wing commander, said, “We are humbled by his character. Sergeant Wassom died as he lived, in service to others.”

• Not looking for honors or recognition, Jacksonville still presented Christine and Jack Henderson with a key to the city for donating a $27,000 mobile adoption unit to the animal shelter.

The 7-by-18-foot trailer has a generator, air conditioning, a sink with cold and hot water and a back end that comes down to act as a ramp. That ramp will be used to load homeless pets for off-site adoption events.

The ramp will also allow potential forever families to come inside and look at adoptable dogs and cats. The unit can hold 17 to 22 cats and dogs.

“It’s amazing. I don’t really have words for what she did,” Animal Services Director Hedy Wuelling said.

The shelter had gathered $3,000 in donations toward the purchase of a trailer and wanted to give it to the Hendersons to defray the cost. But they told Wuelling to keep the $3,000 for spaying and neutering pets or other shelter needs.

• In early June, there was an article about Chris Strong, a Cabot teen who suffered through a cyberbully attack and now participates in four national anti-bullying campaigns.

He also helped organize one of them, the Big Dream Tour.

The 17-year-old, who is now home schooled three days a week through Cabot’s Academic Center of Excel-lence, signed up for an Insta-gram account two years ago.

His “I put my heart out there” attitude quickly gained tens of thousands of followers. Strong said millions know him through social media.

The “social media influencer” also attracted a hacker, who bullied him.

Strong said the bully’s followers called, threatening to kill him, his sister and his girlfriend. The bully later apologized, and the ordeal ended when Strong’s parents threatened to press charges.

The tours involve social media influencers like Strong meeting and greeting their fans, taking photos with them, signing autographs, selling merchandise and speaking out about bullying — usually on a stage set up in a convention center. There are often musical performances, too.

Strong said he tells the thousands gathered at the tour destinations, “They’re all beautiful in their own unique way.”

He continued, “I just try to make them feel better, like inspired. I want them going to bed with a smile on their face and saying ‘I need to do the same. I need to go help others as well’ because in the end, whenever you die, what’s going to be left? Leave a name for yourself.”

Strong pursued a social media career in the first place because he wanted to inspire people.

“A lot of times we get messages or we get fan mail in the mail and people are like ‘you saved my life, or you did this for me, or that. You inspire me. Keep on doing what you’re doing,’” he said.

• Volunteers and donations were in abundance after a killer tornado ripped through Vilonia and El Paso in late April.

“We are overwhelmed with the support of the community and strangers. We want to thank everyone. They will never know the level of our gratitude,” said Robert Chambers. His family’s home was destroyed in the storm.

He said they couldn’t believe the amount of donations they’ve received. “Volunteers came up and cleaned debris from our house. Strangers stop on the street, giving anonymously. It brings tears to your eyes. It is emotional.”

Beebe Elementary teachers, students and counselors assisted their fellow classmate Madison Chambers with clothing, food and other items.

North Pulaski High School cheerleaders volunteered and lent a hand in the cleanup efforts.
To help with the recovery efforts, 12 area churches and many individuals donated money into a disaster relief account set up for the Chambers.

The Chambers did not have renters insurance and lost everything to the twister.

“So many people gave out of the goodness of their hearts. I can’t say thank you enough. Thank you doesn’t cover it,” Robert Chambers said.

“You can’t put it into words. It restored my faith in humanity. I have a new outlook and want to pay it forward and will start trying to,” Robert Chambers said.

• The North Pulaski High School’s Diversity Club, sponsored by photography teacher Natalie Larrison, has joined a global anti-bullying group action art project called “Inside Out” in its efforts to make people more aware of bullying.

Larrison said, “Our project ‘Inside Out: Be Nice’ displays poster-size portraits of students nominated from the student body by Diversity Club members to be the faces featured to express our passion to stop bullying and advocate for others to accept one another. These posters represent a student’s voice. Their image alone will remind others that we are all human and deserve respect.”

Some “Inside Out” projects are displayed in public places, such as the sides of buildings in urban areas. Other smaller displays are on the outside walls of schools.

• Then there was the Aug. 20 story about three North Metro Medical Center Auxiliary volunteers – all in their 90s – who had logged 32,688 volunteer hours at the hospital. That equates to 4,086 eight-hour days, or just over 11 years of service.

The ladies, Maxine Jackson, 91; Francis Smith, 90; and Pauline Wehe, 92 were honored in August and made queens for the day.

Auxiliary president Norma Haralson said, “I think it is awesome that we have three ladies like these that are still active and participate. It’s just wonderful.”

• In late April, the newspaper got word that Calvin D. (Cal) Rollins of Cabot and nine other honorees were inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Ga.

Staff Sergeant Calvin D Rollins, 67, a 100-percent disabled veteran, was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his service during the Vietnam War. Born in Pine Bluff and a graduate of Morrilton High School, he enlisted in the Army in June 1965. By June 1966, he was an Airborne Ranger and team leader assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. 

He was assigned in 1968 to the Special Forces Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation group, where he headed special projects. Wounded in action, Rollins was medically evacuated and retired in 1969 at 50 percent disability. 

His accomplishments earned him several decorations and awards, including the Bronze Star Service Medal, the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, two Purple Hearts, two Air Medals, the Army Commendation with Valor Device, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation with four bronze oak leaves, Republic of Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm, Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutists Badge and more. 

Begun in 1992, the Ranger Hall of Fame is made up of Rangers nominated by select Ranger units and associations representing each era of Ranger history. The selection board scrutinizes each nominee to ensure that only the most extraordinary contributions receive acknowledgement. Only those Rangers whose contributions embody the spirit of sacrifice, loyal service and character are inducted to stand as inspirations and examples to all professionals.

After his military service, Rollins worked in engineering and law enforcement, retiring in 1999 after being declared 100 percent disabled. A former secretary of the Echo 20th/Charlie Rangers Association and the Special Operations Association, Rollins still serves as webmaster for both organizations as well as for the Worldwide Army Rangers Association. 

He is working on plans for the opening of the Special Forces Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Museum, which he founded. 

He also works with the veterans in the post-traumatic stress disorder program at the Veterans Health Systems hospital in North Little Rock. 

• When it comes to the military and veterans, hardly a week went by when there wasn’t a feature on one of these heroes.

Here is one that is representative of all the veterans in the area.

Second World War veteran Bill Schoonover, 93, of Cabot recalled his time in the China-Burma-India Theater during the war. He has been an American Legion member for 67 years.

Schoonover was in the Army from December 1942 to May 1946. He enlisted because he was single and 21 years old. He had a cousin and two brother-in-laws working on farms and they had families.

“When you go into the service, go in with the idea of having a good time, or you’re going to be miserable,” Schoonover said.

Schoonover had two roles in the Army. He was a truck driver and in the signal corps. He handled communications coding and de-coded messages, some that were top secret.

“We knew everything that was going on,” Schoonover said.

“I drove a six-by-six truck on the Burma Road from India to China trying to get gas and supplies into China. Once was enough. The drop-off was 5,000 feet on some of those corners,” Schoonover said.

He recalled leaving boot camp in April 1943. They spent 31 days on a ship that took them to Australia and westward to Calcutta, India.

“Our camp was in the middle of the jungle. At night, you could see jackals and lions from your tent,” Schoonover said.

• In early February, with temperatures often hitting freezing or below, two 15-year-old brothers in Jacksonville set out to collect 2,014 blankets for the homeless by the end of the month.

Dair’Reyel and Andre Veasey, students at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, already had about 200 blankets.

More than half the blankets collected were donated to the Compassion Center in Little Rock, and the Veaseys personally delivered many of them to homeless families who live under the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock.

The brothers knocked on doors asking Jacksonville residents to donate blankets because they wanted to help and inspire others to help.

“The best way we could spend our time is help other people,” Dair’Reyel Veasey said.

He continued, “Some people think like ‘oh they can take care of themselves’ or ‘they shouldn’t have got into this situation in the first place.’ Well, you probably don’t know the story of why they’re in this situation. The most important thing is you can help them.”

Andre Veasey agreed. He said, “We don’t want anyone to get sick, or even die, in the streets.” 

The brothers hope to make it an annual event, and to hold the drive a few months before cold weather sets in so that people will have blankets when they are needed.

• Pulaski County Special School District bus driver Sheila Hart, of Jacksonville, who was instrumental in ending a bus-jacking in October 2013, was honored in late January by the American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas.

Eleven children were on the bus. No one was injured.

She was one of 21 Arkansans who were presented Hero Awards by the Red Cross at a luncheon at Verizon Arena for saving lives or preventing harm to others in danger.

Hart, 51, was driving a school bus to Pinewood Elementary in Jacksonville when the bus was hijacked. She kept the kids and hijacker calm, saying her actions during that frightening incident were all in a day’s work.

Speaking about the Red Cross award, Hart said, “Well, it means a lot but actually I was just doing my job. You know, that’s my job. I get paid to drive them to school safe and protect them.”

The local Red Cross defines Arkansas Heroes as Arkansans ready to answer a call for help to prevent injury or death because of awareness and skills they gained through disaster, health and safety or other training.

• A Jacksonville fifth grader was just working to write his essay to the best of his ability. He knew the financial essay was forwarded to a national contest, but Dylan Mosakowski, a Warren Dupree student, had no idea that he would be named the top financial writer in the state in his division and be honored by Economics Arkansas and his local church.

He won $50 and a plaque from the economics group, which helps sponsor the contest, but also $1,000 scholarship from his church for his achievement. All that showed one never knows what a good effort might bring.

Mosakowski loves basketball, acting in Shakespeare plays, community service, good grades and researching potential stock market winners. His essay was on why Buffalo Wild Wings was an excellent investment.

The fifth grader admitted he’s never been to a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant even though one is located just a few miles away in Sherwood. “I saw the numbers on Yahoo! Finance, and they looked good. The more research I did, the better it looked,” he said.

• And even sports heroes took time in 2014 to speak to youngsters and other groups about education, perseverance and breaking the chain of abuse.

Former Razorback football standout and current NFL tight end D.J. Williams and his mother, Vicky Williams, spoke to a full house at the Open Arms Shelter’s second annual Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Banquet held at Cabot Junior High North in April.

Vicky Williams told of protecting D.J. and two other siblings from an abusive husband and having to leave.

“I married him, and we had three beautiful children,” Vicky Williams said. “Everything was fine for the first 10 years, and then he had two tragedies. After those two tragedies, he was diagnosed as bipolar. He turned to alcohol first, and, all of a sudden, drugs came into the picture.”

Vicky Williams described one incident in particular as her ‘lightning bolt moment’. It was when her only son was on what she thought she was a fishing trip with her father, but it turned out to be something completely different.

Instead of going fishing, Vicky’s then-husband took D.J., who was a young boy at the time, with him on a drug run. When his father got out of the car to pick up what ended up being crack cocaine, he handed his son a gun and told him that if anyone tried to bother him to ‘take care of it.’

Later that day, Vicky could tell something was off about her son, so she asked him what was wrong. D.J. then told his mother what happened and also admitted to her that the only person he ever considered ‘taking care of’ that day was himself.

“Here was the sweetest little thing that I loved so dearly,” Vicky Williams said. “He was so terrified and so miserable, and that was the only way he could think to get out of the situation.”

That prompted Vicky to take her kids and leave their home.

“I can now tell you that my oldest daughter is working for a very prominent doctor in Dallas. She’s doing very well. My middle child is a doctor in physical therapy, and my son did go to the University of Arkansas and got a degree in communications and he got to play for the Razorbacks, and he’s playing right now for the New England Patriots, and he’s just awesome.

“One thing I want these children to know is that no matter what their past has been, their future can be extremely bright. It doesn’t matter what they’ve been through; they make their future. And, as long as they have people that support them and believe in them, like my children had and I had, they can do anything.”

D.J. Williams spent the majority of his time at the podium focusing on the positive things that have happened in his life since those dark days, and how the people that helped him along the way shaped him into the man he’s become today. He said he was grateful to have a bright future as opposed to what he thought would be the alternative.

“I would never have imagined that I’m here,” said D.J. Williams. “I never would’ve imagined that I could buy my mom a house. Things like that are unbelievable because of where I was. I wouldn’t even say that my dreams came true because they weren’t even dreams. I can’t even remember having aspirations or dreams of doing so many good things.

“I believe that everybody has a purpose in life, and fear can sometimes get in the way of those dreams, and that’s not what we want to happen to these children. We don’t want their fear to become bigger than their dreams.”

• Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champion Clinton McDonald stopped by Jacksonville High School in March to encourage the 11th graders to do their best on the literacy proficiency exam and make the most of their educational opportunities.

McDonald is a 2005 Jacksonville High graduate who went to the University of Memphis. He was a defensive tackle for the Seahawks and now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He reflected on being in class at Jacksonville with the students. “I was in the same shoes you all are in with testing, getting into the next grade.

“It’s an important time in your 11th grade year. You need to take these tests seriously.

“Not only does it affect the school, it affects you as well,” McDonald said.

McDonald said he didn’t take tests seriously when he was in high school, and it affected him later with college. He missed two tests, and he could not get all of his scholarship money guaranteed until he made up those tests.

McDonald wondered, if he didn’t take those tests, where he would be. “Everybody in here can read and can write. Go ahead and take advantage of every step on the test. We all thought these tests do not amount to anything, but how many of you all want to go to college or the military,” McDonald asked.

Several students raised their hands. McDonald asked what the plans were for those who don’t want to go to college or the military. A student said he was going to roam the streets, selling dope.

“That the dumbest answer I ever heard,” McDonald said.

“You all have the opportunity to further yourselves in the world, and put your stamp on the United States, or for those in the military, all over the world. Regardless of what you want to do in life, you are going to take tests.

“You all think I play football, went to the Super Bowl, that I don’t know about that life. I was once ya’ll. I was running around on Somar Street, New Town and Sunnyside. It ain’t nothing new, guys. (You think) it is funny because it’s “Jacksonville Hood”. Well, guess what, everywhere you go has a hood. What does that mean? Either you are going to change your environment or you’re going to let your environment become you,” McDonald continued.

He said it’s beneficial for students to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

“Even though it might be boring, even though it seems like (you) don’t want to do this, it’s necessary. How does a guy go from college football to NFL football? From the hard work and blessings God gave him. If you don’t want to work, you will not reap the reward. Your work right now is taking these tests. Your job is to go out here and study. Do your job, make good grades and make good marks on the test.

“I was one of those kids who made mediocre grades. I could have made better grades, but, at the same time, I didn’t care enough to make better grades. Looking back on it, God has blessed me to be where I’m at now. At the same time, everybody is not as fortunate to do what I do. Everybody is not going to be a LeBron James, a Michael Jordan, a Deion Sanders or a quarterback in the NFL.

“You can be the best God allows you to be by taking advantage of the opportunities you have,” McDonald explained.

TOP STORY >> Missionary returns from Africa

Leader staff writer

Holly Huckabee of Cabot was part of a 15-woman team that traveled to the African nation of Tanzania in November with nonprofit organization Pure Joy International to conduct a retreat for missionary women from different denominations who serve in Tanzania. 

Huckabee, the wife of Lonoke County Judge Sandy Huckabee, spent a week in Der es Salaam, Tanzania, which is on the coast of the Indian Ocean. She and the team held a conference for 49 missionaries from around the world who are helping Tanzanians.

“I learned there are a lot of faithful followers of Jesus Christ all over the world. I got to meet them. When you have sisters in Christ who are in another nation and from other nations (you see) that there’s nowhere you can go in this world that you can get away from the love of Jesus,” Huckabee said.

“I have learned he is faithful to those serving him, even in hardship. Missionary lives are not glamorous. They are hard. These are faithful people who go.

“They serve by not only telling the good news of Jesus Christ. They also help serve people by helping them with actual physical needs,” Huckabee said.

She said some of the missionaries in Tanzania are doctors and nurses.

But Huckabee also met a missionary who formed another kind of organization in her garage. The club is for girls who have an eighth-grade education and want to learn a skill.

The girls earn money to become self-supportive by using a pedal-powered sewing machine to make skirts, head bands, scarves and bags. The merchandise is taken by missionaries from the U.S. and sold at home shows.

The profit goes back to girls. They are paid a weekly amount and required to open a savings account. They also have to save 10 percent of what they earn.

After they finish three years of training, the girls leave the program with their own sewing machines, their skills and a small savings to set up shop as seamstresses.

“At the same time, they are being taught in English and in Swahili (their native language) what the Bible says, that there is good news for sinners and that there is a savior,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee is a Bible teacher and was speaking at a retreat in Vilonia when she was put in touch with Pure Joy International. When she was in Tanzania, she gave three talks based on Psalm 84.

Huckabee was not worried about the Ebola outbreak in Africa because it was happening in the western counties of Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone and not Tanzania, which is on the east coast. She said the team was closer to Ebola when they were at the Atlanta International Airport.

Huckabee also said they had to drink only bottled water and were told to use bottled water to brush their teeth. The water in Tanzania can make Americans sick because their bodies are not used to what is in the native water. Huckabee said the food was different, too.

“They had incredible fresh fruit and little short bananas,” Huckabee said.

At the conference, Huckabee said some church friends gave the team notes to deliver to the missionaries.

The notes told the missionaries that they were being prayed for. The missionaries were also given bags of favorite items they can not get in Tanzania, such as Cheetos and Fritos.
Huckabee said most of the buildings and dining hall were open air, except for the lodging. They slept in mosquito netted beds.

She also said the Tanzanians work hard during the day and socialize late at night, after dinner.

Huckabee said the ex-change rate was crazy. One U.S. dollar equals 1,729 Tanzanian shillings.

The cost for the retreat was $3,700 per person, with $500 of that funded by Pure Joy. Each team member had to raise $3,200 on their own to go.

“When you’re doing what God has called you to do, you are taking good news. I’d pay anything to be able to give good news to other people,” Huckabee said. 

The retreat in Tanzania was the 20th conducted by Pure Joy International in Tanzania since the ministry was founded in 1999 in West Point, Calif.

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle boys bounce back with BK

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison rebounded from a devastating first-round loss to Watson Chapel Dec. 27 in the second annual Goldfish Classic at Lonoke High School to get a 58-49 win over Bald Knob in Monday’s consolation round, and on Dec. 30, the Bison closed the tournament with a competitive 52-46 loss to Hazen.

In the Dec. 30 win over Bald Knob, Carlisle led 12-11 at the end of the first quarter, and in the second quarter, the Bison outscored the Bulldogs 15-11 to take a 27-22 lead into halftime.

The Bison were outscored 12-9 in the third quarter, which cut Carlisle’s lead down to two at the start of the fourth, but in the final eight minutes, all five Bison starters scored to help Carlisle to a 22-point quarter, and the nine-point win.

Nick Schafer and Devon Kendrick led Carlisle with 16 points each in the win. Brynden Weems finished that game with 15 points, and teammate Dominic Castleberry added eight points to the winning effort.

Carlisle got off to a very sluggish start in the fifth-place game against its archrival Hazen. The Hornets jumped out to an 11-2 lead to start the game, but the Bison ended the opening quarter with a 9-2 run that cut the Hazen lead to 13-11 at the start of the second quarter.

Fifty-five seconds into the second quarter, Carlisle got within one of Hazen’s lead, 15-14, on an and-1 by Kendrick. However, Hazen ended the quarter with an 11-0 run to take a 26-14 lead into halftime.

Hazen’s press gave Carlisle problems in the third quarter, and the Hornets led 34-20 near the three-minute mark of the quarter.

Carlisle’s Lewis Bunch made it an 11-point game with a 3-pointer at the 2:08 mark of the third period, and a three by Weems with 46 tics left trimmed the margin back to single digits by quarter’s end, with the score 36-28 Hazen.

The Bison opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to make it a one-point game. That run was capped with a midrange jumper by Cole Sheets near the six-minute mark, which made the score 36-35.

Kendrick, though, left the game shortly after, favoring his ankle, and Hazen scored the next five points before Carlisle could get another basket. Kendrick returned to the game with 3:02 left to play and the score 43-37.

The Hornets furthered their lead to nine with an and-1 by Cody Kee with 2:41 remaining. That made the score 46-37. Schafer fouled out with 1:52 remaining, but Carlisle still found a way to make it a game as the final seconds ticked away.

With 1:05 remaining, the Bison made it a 47-44 game with a Weems’ three, and on the Bison’s next possession, Castleberry scored on a short jumper that cut the Hornets’ lead to 47-46.

Carlisle pressed on the ensuing Hornets’ possession, but Hazen beat the press and got an easy layup with 25 seconds left, and Hazen’s Trenton Mosby made 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch, setting the final score. 

The Bison finished the fifth-place game 16 of 41 from the floor for 39 percent. Hazen, who narrowly beat Carlisle in conference play recently, made 19 of 46 shots for 41 percent.
Hazen narrowly won the rebounding battle 27-26, and the Hornets won the turnover category 14-21.

Kendrick led all scorers with 15 points. He was the only Bison to finish in double figures, scoring-wise. Weems added nine points in the loss. Mosby led Hazen with 12 points and teammate Grant Booth also finished with double-digit points. He scored 10.

Carlisle resumed conference play Tuesday at home against KIPP Delta Charter of Helena. The Bison will remain in conference play on Friday with a road game at Marvell.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears drop pair at PB

Leader sportswriter

PINE BLUFF – The Sylvan Hills boys ended the 2015 Zebra Holiday Tournament at Pine Bluff High School with a 47-39 loss to fellow 5A-Central Conference member J.A. Fair in the fifth-place game on Saturday, and with the loss, the Bears finished the tournament with a 1-2 record.

The Bears dropped their first game of the tournament to Mills, also from the 5A-Central, on Dec. 30, but on Friday, Sylvan Hills advanced to Saturday’s fifth-place game with a 52-41 win over a tall Hamburg team.

Even though the Bears (5-5) didn’t finish the eight-team tournament with a win, Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis was glad that his team got to see some of the level of competition they’ll face for the rest of the regular season, with conference play starting this week.

“We wanted to be here because we wanted to compete against the level of athleticism and the level of play that we’re going to see in our conference,” said Davis. “There are four of our conference teams here (Sylvan Hills, Mills, McClellan and Fair). So we definitely got to see it.

“This is a young team with not a lot of size and not a lot of depth. They’re 5-5 right now and they’ve had some really, really good wins, and that’s the most we’ve lost by was eight (points). They’re playing people tough and they’re competing hard, it’s just a process.

“We’ve just got to keep trying to grow up into a varsity team. I think it was important for us to be here and our kids to see how close they are and what they needed to do to try to be able to turn the corner.”

Sylvan Hills had to play Saturday’s game against Fair without starting two-guard Dexter Smith, who was out with an injured wrist. Smith scored in double figures in each of the Bears’ first two games of the tournament, so not having him in the lineup caused some disruption in the Bears’ offensive game plan.

Starting guard Cordy Winston, though, one of the more prolific scorers in the 5A-Central, drained two 3-pointers at the start of the game to give the Bears a 6-2 lead. However, the War Eagles finished the quarter with a 7-1 run to lead 9-7 at the start of the second quarter.
Fair pushed its lead to five by halftime. Leading 20-17 with 25 seconds left in the half, the War Eagles held for the last shot and scored on a Kevon Bryant bucket with one second remaining, which set the halftime margin at 22-17.

Winston drained a corner three 29 seconds into the third quarter, which cut Fair’s lead to 22-20, but the War Eagles answered with a 12-0 run that pushed their lead to double digits, leading 34-22.

That run was led by Fair leading scorer Jerrick Cole, who made it a 12-point game with a long 3-pointer with 3:45 left in the third. That forced Davis to call timeout, and by the end of the period, Sylvan Hills made it a single-digit game, with Fair leading 38-30.

The Bears got within six of Fair’s lead in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as they’d get to catching up with the War Eagles in the final eight minutes. A Jordan Washington free throw made the score 41-35 with 5:35 remaining, but Fair pushed its lead to 47-37 by the 1:30 mark.

With just over a minute to play, Washington set the final score with an inside bucket.

The Bears finished the game 15 of 42 shooting for 36 percent. Fair finished the game 19 of 43 from the floor for 44 percent. The rebounding and turnover numbers were identical. Each team grabbed 22 rebounds and each team had 13 turnovers.

Cole led all scorers Saturday with 24 points. Winston led Sylvan Hills with 19 points, and Washington led all players with 11 rebounds.

In Friday’s consolation game against Hamburg, the Bears led 6-2 at the end of the first quarter and 20-14 at halftime. Sylvan Hills outscored Hamburg 14-9 in the third quarter to further its lead to 34-23 at the start of the fourth, and in the final eight minutes, each team scored 18 points to set the final score.

Winston led the Bears with 19 points Friday. Smith was the only other Bear to score in double figures with 11 points.

SPORTS STORY >> NP to retire number for Carlos Kelly

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski High School honors a former Falcon on Friday, retiring the jersey of basketball standout and local pastor Carlos Kelly between girls’ and boys’ games against Mills University Studies.

Kelly is a 1992 graduate of NPHS. He’s now husband to Letitia Kelly and father to current Falcons Jalen, a senior, and Caleb, a sophomore.

Current North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson, who graduated from Jacksonville High in 1992, played against Kelly and decided in October to honor his former foe.

“He was a tough player, but it’s also about the work he’s done through his church to support the kids out this way,” said Jackson.

Up until this past Sunday, Kelly was senior pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in North Little Rock, where he’s been for 15 years. He recently accepted the same position at a church in Macon, Ga., and will be moving soon.

Kelly said his emotions were mixed when he found out his high school alma mater wanted to recognize him in such a way.

“First I was surprised and then honored all at the same time,” Kelly said. “I was privileged to have a great career at North Pulaski and get some opportunities beyond high school.”

Kelly averaged 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists for as long as his senior season at NPHS lasted. After garnering Division I offers and verbally committing to the University of Wyoming, he suffered a major knee injury in the 15th game of his senior year, causing Wyoming to renege its offer. He then chose Delta St., where he played for four years, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and staying to earn a master’s in education.

While just about to enroll in law school at Memphis, he felt called to a different path.

“I sensed a call to the ministry and changed career paths right there,” Kelly said. “I started teaching first and then went into full-time ministry.”

Kelly was All-Conference and All-State all three years of high school, and a McDonald’s All-American nominee his senior year.

His oldest son Jalen currently wears his dad’s No. 12 Falcon jersey. He’ll be allowed to finish the season as No. 12, but will be the last person to wear it before it’s hung in the rafters of the Falcons’ Nest for good.

Tip off for the girls’ game is scheduled for 6 p.m. with boys to follow at approximately 7:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers acquit selves nicely in Texas

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers took fourth place in the 32-team Spring Creek Barbecue Invitational basketball tournament last week in Mansfield, Texas, winning their first three games to advance to the semifinals before dropping the final two games to settle for fourth place.

Most of the tournament featured teams from Texas’ largest classification in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Played at four different sites in the Mansfield school district, Cabot opened at Mansfield High against highly-ranked Cedar Hill, a Class 6A school just minutes from Mansfield.

The team features highly touted Joyner Holmes. Major Division I coaches from all over the country were on hand to watch the 6-foot-3 Holmes lead Cedar Hill against the Lady Panthers, but Cabot never let her get going. The No. 2 rated player in Texas finished with just 10 points and four rebounds as the Lady Panthers prevailed 56-48.

The Lady Panthers’ pressure defense forced 26 Cedar Hill turnovers as Cabot raced out to a 22-9 lead in the first quarter. The local team was able to reverse that trend in the second quarter, forcing several Cabot turnovers. The Lady Panthers finished the game with 19 turnovers, but still held to a 34-27 lead at halftime after Cedar Hill got as close as 27-24 in the second quarter.

Cabot built its margin back to double digits early in the third quarter when back-to-back buckets by CoCo Calhoon and Alyssa Hamilton made it 39-29. Holmes answered moments later with just her second bucket of the game, but Cabot scored the next eight straight to take a commanding 47-31 lead.

Victoria Jackson and Holmes combined for the final four points of the third quarter, leaving Cabot with a 12-point lead going into the final frame. Hamilton added to that lead with the first bucket of the fourth quarter, but Holmes and teammate Dominique Dawson scored four in a row to cut the margin to 10.

Cabot’s ball movement continued to create open looks for Hamilton, who answered each of Cedar Hill’s next two buckets.

Robin Beck drained a 3-pointer with two minutes left to pull the local team to within eight, but her team wouldn’t score again until Beck drained another trey at the buzzer to set the final margin.

Hamilton led Cabot with 18 points and eight rebounds while Danielle McWilliams had 14 points and Anna Sullivan 10 for Cabot. Guard Leighton Taylor finished with six points, seven assists and three steals.

Cenecia Newman led Cedar Hill with 13 points, including 10 in the first half. Beck and Holmes each finished with 10.

After that 11:30 a.m. start, Cabot moved on to face Timberview, a Mansfield school, at 8:15 p.m. that same night, and walked away with a 42-31 victory. Cabot led just 21-20 at halftime after Timberview opened the game scoring the first seven points. The Lady Panthers continued to slowly assume control in the second half, holding Timberview to just four points in the fourth quarter to win going away in the slower-paced matchup.

Cabot relied again on ball movement in the more half-court game, and Hamilton and Sullivan led the way. Hamilton finished with 16 points while Sullivan added 15. Hamilton also had six rebounds and three steals.

McWilliams added seven points, five rebounds and two steals for Cabot.

On Wednesday, Cabot played the quarterfinals against MacArthur High of Irving, Texas, and won 45-42. Unlike the first two games, Cabot found itself still trailing at halftime on game three. MacArthur jumped out to a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter after scoring the game’s first six points. Cabot battled back with a 7-2 run to pull within one point, but MacArthur got hot from outside, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to close the first period.

Cabot trailed 23-15 with three minutes left in the half before closing the second period with a 7-0 run. Sullivan made 1 of 2 free throws to open the run and Taylor hit a pair of foul shots to make it 23-18. Josie Vanoss scored for Cabot after a MacArthur turnover and Sullivan scored after a defensive stop and rebound by Hamilton.

The run became 9-0 when Calhoon scored the first bucket of the second half to give Cabot its first lead of the game, but Alyson Gomez got it right back for MacArthur. The lead changed hands six times in the third quarter before MacArthur went on an 8-1 run to take a 35-29 lead with seconds left in the third period.

Cabot closed the period with a bucket by Hamilton, and then outscored MacArthur 14-7 in the fourth quarter. The Lady Panthers still trailed 40-37 with just less than three minutes remaining, but they closed the game with an 8-2 run to seal the win.

In the semifinals, Cabot fell 47-38 to Bowie High of Arlington, then lost 50-27 to South Grand Prairie in the third-place game. Prestonwood Christian Academy of Plano beat Bowie 64-45 in the tournament championship.